Thank you, Lord, that you delight to do new things and are not trapped into tired ways of working. Renew in us a spirit of expectancy today.
We know the twists and turns of biblical history so well that we lose sight of the fact that God so often acts in a way that takes us by surprise. The story of Abraham, so venerated by the Jews, had become fossilized through familiarity. Stephen starts with the common ground that they share, and then breathes fresh air into it. They knew their history so well they had failed to be stirred by its unexpectedness.
Their history is one full of drama. Again and again God takes the initiative and leaves them breathless. Struggling to know how to respond. THere was no preparation for the extraordinary course of events that followed God’s appearance in Ur. Abraham had no training, no orientation and no induction. When God calls, however, you must respond, even when it all seems uncomfortable and the outcome uncertain. God was on the move, and his long-term plan was the salvation of his people. It all seemed so contradictory. Owning no land, Abraham was promised some; having no son, this elderly man was guaranteed descendants; set free from the confines of his stable life, he set out on a lonely journey knowing that God’s future plans included exile and slavery before deliverance would come.
Stephen spells out that God’s purposes faced repeated hostility from his own people, from Joseph’s brothers onwards. Those who would save the nation would face false accusation and rejection before becoming their deliverer. This was was true for Joseph, abandoned, sold, betrayed, falsely accused and imprisoned. Yet he never allowed who would receive, and the needs of his family were met. Stephen is laying the groundwork of his defense, not just playing for time. One greater than Joseph is here!
How can you rebuild imagination into your Bible reading so that familiar stories come alive in a new way?